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Review: '24 Exposures' takes a subpar stab at crime thriller

Prolific writer-director Joe Swanberg ("Hannah Takes the Stairs," "Drinking Buddies") is on to something in his latest outing, "24 Exposures." Unfortunately, this would-be erotic thriller is just too unfocused and slapdash to satisfy its promise.

With vague echoes of such art-meets-murder films as Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" and Brian De Palma's "Blow Out," Swanberg attempts to provoke and grip. But he fails on both counts in telling this tale of Billy (Adam Wingard), a "personal fetish photographer" whose violence-laced work begins to parallel a murder being investigated by a depressed cop (Simon Barrett).

An intriguing start, yes. But Swanberg, who also edited and acts here, seems more concerned with capturing Billy's models (Caroline White, Sophia Takal, Helen Rogers) in various states of undress (there's copious nudity), as well as with the characters' random, often banal chatter, than he is with such narrative basics as depth, motivation and logic.

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As a result, this brief, loosely-knit film never builds any empathy or tension. Its one, er, stab at a solid conceit is its juxtaposition of Billy's faux-bloody photo stagings with real — or are they? — crime scene shots, but that pretty much goes nowhere.

There's also an abundance of subpar acting, starting with Wingard and the egregiously flat, unconvincing Barrett (both filmmakers). As a newbie model's brooding, jealous boyfriend, the bland Mike Brune is especially miscast.

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"24 Exposures."

MPAA rating: none.

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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